// Retail sales volumes increased by 0.5% in June, ONS says
// Follows a dip in retail sales in May, and the latest figures also surpassed the expectations
// June’s figures represent a 9.5% increase in retail sales volumes against pre-pandemic levels from February 2020
UK retailers saw sales rebound in June as football fans enjoying the Euros bought more food and drink.
The ONS revealed that retail sales volumes increased by 0.5 per cent in June.
It came after a surprise dip in retail sales in May, while the latest figures also surpassed the expectations of analysts who had forecast a flat performance.
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The ONS also said June’s figures represented a 9.5 per cent increase in retail sales volumes against pre-pandemic levels from February 2020.
It added that last month’s jump was primarily caused by strong sales at food stores, which rose by 4.2 per cent.
The ONS highlighted anecdotal evidence that linked strong food and drink sales with the start of the Euro 2020 football tournament.
It represented a rebound following a 5.5 per cent fall in food store sales in May after the reopening of hospitality had initially cut into trading.
“June’s retail sales have picked up again following the dip seen last month, with the main driver coming from food and drink sales, boosted by football fans across Britain enjoying the Euros,” ONS director of economic statistics Darren Morgan said.
“Although not quite back to their pre-pandemic level, fuel sales rose again this month, as people increased the amount they travel so are spending more at the pump.”
The latest figures show that non-food stores still saw lower sales, with a 1.7 per cent decrease in June against May’s performance.
Lisa Hooker, consumer markets leader at PwC, said: “The first full month of reopening for indoor hospitality was always going to be make or break for the retail sector, and we’ve seen both increased footfall for the high street, with online sales at their lowest level (26.7 per cent) since the start of the pandemic, and, perhaps surprisingly, a boom in demand for grocery.
“The combination of both food and drink sales to supporters celebrating the home teams’ successes at the Euros and record high consumer sentiment levels seem to have particularly benefited June’s results.
“However, headline growth masks declines in other non-food categories, with household goods sales suffering their first non-lockdown driven decline since the start of the pandemic, as people started to spend more time out of the home.”
Jace Tyrrell, chief executive at New West End Company – which represents 600 businesses on Oxford Street, Regent Street, Bond Street and in Mayfair in central London – said the slight rise in retail sales “provides a splash of hope for retailers everywhere” but stressed that UK retail was not yet out of the woods – especially for the hard-hit West End.
“The end of restrictions has seen footfall in the West End rise by three per cent week-on-week, but it is still a long way off the traffic and spend that is needed to reinvigorate businesses,” he said.
“There are a few reasons to be optimistic with many people choosing London as the prime destination for their summer staycation and people gradually returning to offices, but, while safety is of course top priority, we need much larger volumes of visitors to the district.”
Tyrrell suggested that the government should relax “archaic” Sunday trading laws and urgently review the business rates system to help boost retail recovery.
“We need the government to apply the same levels of freedom afforded to the public to our retailers,” he said.
“They must look to relax archaic Sunday trading laws, giving retailers the flexibility they need to compete with global competitors, whilst also meeting the changing demands of the post-pandemic consumer.
“There also needs to be fundamental reform of the business rates system, giving businesses much needed respite and an opportunity to thrive following one of the most difficult years on record.
“For viable businesses to stay afloat over the summer months, we need clear guidance from the government.”
with PA Wires